Friday, September 22, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Joshua Tree Edition

So, I'm going to see the U2 concert tonight. Mr. Snarky and I decided to skip it in a fit of fiscal responsibility, and then my sister talked me into going with her... so now I'm going and Mr. Snarky is staying home with the kids. I feel a little bad about that, especially since our kids will be joined by one of Petunia's best friends, whose parents are also going to the concert.

But I don't feel too bad because back in 2012, we flew home from our vacation on Mother's Day, and that night, Mr. Snarky and his friend went to see Roger Waters. I didn't want to see that concert, but leaving me home with jet-lagged kids on Mother's Day is worse than leaving him home with the kids on some random Friday, so I think this makes us even.

Anyhow, I should probably go, I don't know, put gel in my hair or something to prepare for my nostalgia trip to the 80s, so let's get the links done.

First, the book promo links:

I am now ready to sign up advance readers for The Burning. If you're interested in being an advance reader, sign up here.

Water into Wine comes out Wednesday! (You can pre-order the ebook now via the links on that page.)

Here's an interview with Water into Wine's author, Joyce Chng, over at Fran Wilde's blog.

On to the other links. I don't have that many this week, because I gave the online version of my Navigate the Path to Industry seminar on Wednesday, and doing that and all my other work kept me a bit busier than usual.

I've thought for some time that America needs to a truth and reconciliation commission or some other means for publicly coming together and discussing our past. So I like Tom Perriello's call for one in Virginia.

The Pod Save America crew's interview with HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen was really interesting.

Jamelle Bouie on political correctness is definitely worth your time.

Ed Yong's getting to see some cool stuff in New Zealand: first kakapos and now baby kiwis.

Sometimes the internet is still fun:

And if you somehow missed the Mary-Clare King story that was circulating this week, here is a tweet with both the video and the written version:


And that's all I have. Time to go gel my hair!

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trip Story: Carson City and Virginia City

I feel like escaping from all the bad news right now and so I will revisit my summer vacation. In my last trip story post, I wrote about our drive across northern Nevada. The target of that drive was Carson City, where we stayed for a couple of nights. We arrived late in the afternoon on July 3 and left first thing in the morning July 5... and we spent a big chunk of July 4 in nearby Virginia City. But I still felt like we'd seen something of Carson City, and we enjoyed our time there.

Our first order of business upon pulling into town was to go see the state capitol. It would be closed the next day (July 4), and Mr. Snarky was adamant he wanted to go inside. So we went to the capitol before we went to our hotel.

For once, I'm actually glad we did go into the capitol. They had a little scavenger hunt for the kids to do, and one of the items had us go into the Secretary of State's office and see the vault that Mark Twain's brother had installed there when he was the Secretary of State. That was pretty cool.

The kids were more impressed with the fact that you could go into one of the meeting rooms. They could even sit up on the podium and pretend to be in charge.

Pumpkin contemplates a career in politics.

After checking in to our hotel (a casino...), the kids and Mr. Snarky went for a swim while I rested for a bit, trying to stave off a headache. It worked, and a little later we headed back into the downtown area and had a very nice dinner at a place called The Union.

The next day, we headed out to Virginia City to experience a fourth of July parade with an Old West theme. I think Mr. Snarky was the one who enjoyed it the most. I'm not much of a parade person, and the kids thought there were too many loud cars and too many loud fake guns (or real guns shooting blanks, more accurately).

Owners of some of the loud guns

Virginia City is where Samuel Clemens started writing under the name of Mark Twain, and before the parade started, we went into the basement of a shop to see the desk he worked at and some other related memorabilia. There are other historic sites there, and I think if we'd visited on any other day, I would have enjoyed it more. As it was, it was just too packed full of people.

After the parade, we took a ride on a steam train traveling a portion of the old Virginia and Truckee line. That was a really nice ride, but we all agreed that when it was done, we were done with Virginia City, and headed back to Carson City.

View from the train

Petunia had seen a fun fair set up not far from our hotel, and begged to get to go to it. And so we did. Petunia had an absolute blast, and Pumpkin had fun, too. Mr. Snarky and I were less excited by the fun fair, but it is always fun to see your kids have so much fun.

We left the fair and had dinner at the Fox Brewpub, which has a nice patio looking out at a fountain/splash pad that the kids really enjoyed. I have to say, downtown Carson City has real potential. It is not large, but it is nice and there are several interesting looking restaurants, including one across from the Fox called "Scoups" that specializes in soup and ice cream. Those are two of my favorite types of food, so if I ever go back to Carson City, I'll make a point to visit that establishment!

Looking at the Fox from the other side of the fountain.
The blurs in yellow and blue are my children.
And then it was time for fireworks. We drove to a parking lot that someone had recommended and watched the show... only to get back to our hotel and discover we could have watched it from our hotel parking lot. Oh well. They were nice fireworks. We only cared about the lost time because it was quite late for our kids to be up, and we wanted to get up early the next morning for a big driving day: we were heading back into California, to Lee Vining. I'll pick up the story there next time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Rushing to Get to a School Event Edition

We have a back to school social event at the kids' school tonight, so this post might be a little terser than usual as I cram to get everything done and wrap up work an hour early despite the fact that I went out to lunch (but to meet with someone about a work thing!) and decided that even if I didn't have time for a rollerblade, I could probably squeeze in a run.

So anyhow, let's get to the links.

Self-promo links this week:

  • I posted the cover reveal for The Burning, a novella by JP Seewald that will be out in early November. I'll have the call for advance readers ready by next week, I hope.
  • Don't forget that Water into Wine, by Joyce Chng, is available for pre-order now. Release day is Sept. 27!
  • Registration for Navigate the Path to Industry, my non-academic job search seminar closes MONDAY. If you or anyone you know has been procrastinating on signing up, now's the time to act.
  • A couple weekends ago, I tweeted about spending a huge amount of time creating a "party robot" t-shirt design for Petunia's upcoming birthday. Her shirt arrived in the mail this week, and we love it. So, the design is now posted on Etsy. I've got the children's and infant/toddlers sizes posted. I'm hoping to get the adult sizes up this weekend. And yeah, that's Petunia modeling the shirt in the children's posting.

And some friend promo:

Xykademiqz is having a flash fiction contest! Go enter. If I can come up with an idea, I'll enter. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's entries.

If you're not familiar with flash fiction, here's an example. Or check out the @MicroSFF twitter feed.

Now, the other links:

I listened to the interview with Hillary Clinton on Pod Save America, and it is really good. In particular, the section where she talks about the threat to our democracy she shes in Trump and in big money donors like the Mercers is worth your time. And luckily, Tommy Vietor pulled that bit of the transcript out into a tweet:

Tressie MacMillan Cottom on the Trump presidency is excellent. It is a hard call between this and the Hillary Clinton interview for my "if you only have time for one thing" pick this week. The best I can do is say to read this and then read the short section of the Clinton interview above.

But really, you should also read Cathy O'Neil on Facebook, Google, and why we need them to be more transparent in order to protect our democracy.

And Zeynep Tufecki's NYT op-ed about the Equifax mess is spot on and also worth your time.

Joseph Williams was fired from his job at Politico after saying some negative things about Mitt Romney... and what happened next is sobering.

Now that Pumpkin has a phone (used to text me when she arrives at school, since the kids are now walking to school on their own), she is begging for Snapchat. The answer is NO right now, but I can tell that we're going to need to come up with a coherent plan for internet and social media sooner than I'd like. This post from Cool Mom Tech has some things for me to think about once I'm ready to tackle this topic.

Pumpkin loves kakapos, so this story about the kakapo sequencing project was a big hit in our house.

A disturbing example of how false things get made to sound true:


Also probably true:


That's all for this week

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Musings from the Tail End of a Mid-Life Crisis

In April of 2014, I abruptly quit my job. There were many aspects of that action that were completely out of character for me. I did not really understand why I quit when I did it. Furthermore, I was actively repelled by the idea of looking for another salaried job in my field or even the fields adjacent to my field. I did not understand why, but the thought of applying for any of those jobs made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. If I'd needed to get back to "regular" employment right away I don't really know where I'd have ended up.

Luckily, I landed in a part time contract position at a rate that allowed us to maintain our standard of living while I did the work I needed to do to figure out what the hell had just happened. It also gave me the time and space to try to build a company, which has been a really interesting journey.

I am really, really aware of how lucky I have been. I know that many other people don't have the luxury of taking the time to figure this stuff out. I know that other people land in a position similar to mine and experience a sharp drop in their standard of living. Take it as a given in the rest of this post that I really know that. My recognition of my extreme luck has made me reticent to write too much about the process of figuring out what the hell had happened. However, I made an off hand comment over at Nicoleandmaggie's about how the sense of clarity I'd gained from my midlife crisis was nice, and a long time reader emailed me to say she'd like to read more about that.

I so rarely get reader requests that I am excited to try to meet it! Hence this post, which has been much delayed due to headaches and life in general interfering with my blogging time..

I didn't call what I was experiencing a mid-life crisis at first, because there were some external things that clearly precipitated the problems. But then I realized that is probably always true about mid-life crises. I'll embrace the cliche I embodied and proudly proclaim that yes, I had a mid-life crisis.

It took me close to two years to really understand why I quit that day in April. The reasons veer into other people's stories too much for me to feel comfortable discussing them here. Luckily, they also aren't anywhere near the most interesting thing I've learned in the last 3.5 years.

What is far more interesting is what I've learned about myself as I have tried to build a company from nothing. I've written more about the company building over at my Tiny Letter, but I haven't really written about what the process has taught me about myself.

Here, in random order are the things I've learned:

1. I had too much of my sense of self-worth invested in my work.

I am more than my work. I thought I knew this, but I clearly didn't. Perhaps the pressures of parenting had taken too many of my hobbies away from me, but I think that is a cop out. I had (and have!) a lot of interests outside of work and separate from my role as a mother. I had just lost touch with how much those interests could contribute to my sense of who I am.

2. I wanted external validation too much and spent too much effort chasing it.

This one goes way back for me, and probably speaks to some deep-seated insecurity. I won't pretend I've conquered it, but I've looked it in the eye and acknowledged that I will never get the amount of external validation I crave, and I need to be OK with that. I'm working on being OK with that.

3. All my work really needs to do is pay my bills.

This has become a bit of a mantra for me. I use it to talk myself down when I start judging myself by other people's metrics of success. Once I've paid my bills, the only metric of success that matters is the one I define. The hard part in this, of course, is defining my own metric of success. This is also a work in progress.

4. I like money, and that's OK.

Early on in my entrepreneurship adventure I stumbled into some parts of the internet where entrepreneurs were extolling the virtues of cutting your expenses to the bone so that you would have a longer runway for trying to get your company off the ground... and I realized that no, that was not for me. We did trim our expenses a bit, and I pay more attention to what I buy at the grocery store, but I won't go to extremes. For instance: our local store helpfully stopped carrying the fancy orange-tangerine juice blend I like, so I now buy whichever orange juice is cheapest... but if my orange-tangerine blend ever shows back up I'm buying it in a heartbeat.

I also realized I wasn't willing to make my kids drop any of their activities, even though I know that this would cause them no harm.

Basically, I like our comfortable lifestyle and I'll go back to full time work to keep it if I have to. When I realized that, I knew I'd resolved the worst of the crisis that led me to quit my job, because as I said, at the beginning of the crisis, the thought of going back to full time work was horrifying to me.

5. I love to travel

OK, I already knew this one, but the introspection of the last few years has taught me that if I have to pick one thing to care about in addition to my family, it is getting to travel. Any work arrangement that doesn't acknowledge this is going to make me unhappy. Luckily, I don't need luxury travel, so while this priority isn't cheap, it is also quite achievable in a variety of different work arrangements I've considered.

The more general principle here is that it is good to know what makes you happy and recharges your soul, and it is OK to prioritize that even if it seems like something sort of shallow or unimportant. I'm not a spa person, but I suspect there are people who feel about spa days like I feel about seeing new places, and I say... go for it.

6. I like to make things

My explorations in entrepreneurship have covered a lot of ground. There are things I like about all of the aspects of my current business, but as I've reflected on what I most want to do, I've realized it is: make things. I love producing books. I have fun making t-shirts, too, and although I've decided the t-shirts shouldn't be a business priority, I'll probably keep making new designs now and then. (Party robot shirts are coming soon!) Once I decided to let the creative side of my brain have a little fun, I've come up with a lot of things I'd love to make: different types of books, different ideas for websites, ideas for apps... I write all my ideas in a special journal I keep for that purpose. I've produced more of my ideas than I would have predicted back when I started the company, and my favorite thing about my current work arrangement might be the freedom to pursue so many ideas.

Is there a general principle in this lesson? Maybe it is to pay attention to the work activities that make you happiest. Try to find ways to do those things more often, and avoid work situations where you're cut off from that joy, no matter how many other enticements they offer.

I'm sure I've learned more things, but that list is what I wrote in my little writing notebook as I was thinking about this post, and I think it hits the most important things. I can't say that the mid-life crisis has been fun, but at least it has been worthwhile. I feel better able to evaluate options about what to do next now that I better understand what matters to me, and what my "gotcha" points are. I don't know when I get to declare the mid-life crisis over. I think I still have things to figure out, but I am not responding to events in ways I don't really understand... and I'll call that a win.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Stay Safe Everyone Edition

I had plans to write a post last night about what I've figured out from my midlife crisis (reader request!) but then I got one of the headaches I get sometimes that isn't quite a migraine but makes me feel queasy. So I spent my evening on the sofa with an ice pack on my head instead.

I am happy to report that I feel better today. I went out for my first rollerblade in ages, and it was delightful. This really is the best time of year here. The tourists are home, the kids are in school, but the weather is delightful.

Of course, I feel a bit bad reveling in my wonderful weather with three hurricanes bearing down on various places... but it was a nice rollerblade all the same.

So, on to some links.

If you haven't grabbed your discounted copy of Academaze yet, you might still be able to get one if you hurry. Prices will start going up later tonight.

I don't have any other promotional links to share this week. I spent a good part of today working on slides for a new seminar on strategic planning. I'm putting this together for a client, though. I might decide to offer an online version at some point, but not yet.

If you read only one of my links this week, make it Noah Smith's post about how Americans are in an an indefinitely repeating prisoner's dilemma... and so we should learn how to cooperate with people on the other side of the political spectrum.

And then, if you're up for a longer and more depressing read about a similar topic, you can read Lee Drutman's article about American hyperpartisanship and the doom loop.

In "trying to win elections by keeping people who disagree with you from voting" news, here's a short post about the latest bogus accusation of fraud.

I don't know what to make of the study about Fox news influencing voting decisions.

If you aren't up on the history of US immigration policy and how we ended up with so many young people who are undocumented but have never known another country... Dara Lind's article on why ending DACA is so unprecedented is a good place to fill in the gaps.

Were the 1990s the peak for working women in America? I hope not!

The edition of The Ezra Klein Show podcast with Angela Nagle is really good. They talk about 4chan and the alt-right, but also about the need to present a positive vision for our future. I particularly liked Angela Nagle's points towards the end about imaging a different relationship with work.


Just LOL:

Judging by his profile location, this awesome skateboarder lives somewhere near me:


And that's all I have... or at least all the time I have today. If you're in the path of one of the hurricanes, stay safe!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Trip Story: The Great Salt Lake and Northern Nevada

Time for the next installment of the Western Road Trip! In my last installment, we visited Salt Lake City. Our next main stop was in Carson City, Nevada. But first, we had to get across northern Nevada. When we planned the trip, I looked at the big expanse across Nevada with a bit of dread, but it turned out to be a beautiful drive.

Before we got to Nevada, though, we had a couple more stops in Utah, one planned and one spur of the moment. The planned stop was at the Great Salt Lake State Park, so that we could dip our toes in the lake and say we'd at least seen the lake in Salt Lake City.

The kids were a bit underwhelmed with the lake: it was slimy and muddy and there were sooo many flies.

Those dots on the water are flies. 

But they enjoyed doing the junior ranger program and getting the cool badge at the end, so it wasn't a complete bust. On the downside, doing the junior ranger program made us spend longer on this stop than I'd anticipated, and so lunch was late.

Luckily, no one minded that lunch was late, because before we got to lunch we made an impromptu stop at a rest area that turned out to be the Bonneville Salt Flats. The fact that this was an unplanned stop was a break down in my planning process. If I'd known that these salt flats were along our route, I would definitely have planned to stop there. But no harm done: we stopped and we all thought the salt flats were really cool.

All that white stuff is salt. If you squint, you can see a car in the distance.

We threw "salt balls" at each other (the fall apart quickly, so none hit their marks) and just marveled at the weird landscape. Other people drove their cars out onto the flats. The flats are the location of a lot of land speed records over the years, and there is an active racing association that holds races on the flats every year, if the weather permits.

We chose not to drive our loaded Mazda 5 minivan onto the flats, and instead headed on to West Wendover, for lunch at a Pizza Hut.

After lunch, we drove on to Elko. We arrived too late to catch any of the Basque festival that had been held over the weekend, but the kids did enjoy a swim in our hotel pool. Since it was Sunday night and the night after the festival wrapped up, most of the restaurants in the downtown area were closed, but we enjoyed a short stroll around and admired some large boots.

We found an open restaurant for dinner, and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

The next day, we had breakfast at the Denny's next to our hotel before continuing our drive west. The notable thing about that was the row of Tesla car chargers outside the restaurant. I was a bit surprised to see them outside a Denny's in Elko, but they got quite a bit of use: we counted three different Teslas charging up while we had breakfast.

Since we hadn't had any Basque food in Elko, Mr. Snarky really wanted to eat at the Basque restaurant I'd flagged as a possible lunch stop in Winnemucca. It was called The Martin Hotel, and the food was wonderful. I didn't want a big lunch, so I had a sandwich, but made it interesting by choosing the garlic soup as my starter (it was delicious). Mr. Snarky went all out and had lamb and garlic mashed potatoes and I think he had something approaching a religious experience eating it.

After lunch, we drove on. I found the landscape pretty, but knew from experience it was the sort of landscape I'd fail to capture in a picture, so you'll just have to take my word for it. There were grasslands rising into hills and mountains, a big blue sky, and the sense of openness that is one of my favorite things about landscapes in the American West.

Our next stop for the day was for "snack"- we stopped for ice cream at a place called Steve's Homemade Ice Cream, in a strip mall in Fernley, NV. The ice cream was delicious.

From Fernley, it was just another hour to Carson City. I'll pick up the story there next time.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Weekend Reading: The It Is Too Damn Hot Edition

Southern California is in the midst of a heat wave. It is nowhere near the weather catastrophe as Hurricane Harvey, so it is understandably not getting a lot of news attention. But I can confirm: it is really hot here right now. Mostly, I don't mind the heat too much, particularly since it has been cooling off nicely at night. But it is 86 degrees in my house right now, and I was working from home today.

On top of that, it was the first week of school, and my kids' school isn't done with its renovation project yet. Which means that some of the classrooms still don't have air conditioning. Which means that the district called for two extra "minimal days" this week, due to the heat. Luckily, the YMCA after care extended hours (their room has air conditioning), but that was only available for people who are already signed up for after care, and today, one of Pumpkin's friends didn't have any place to go for the surprise half day. I decided to store up some working parent karma points and offered to have her come here. So I picked Pumpkin and a couple of her friends up at 12:45, when school let out, and they've been here doing homework and playing since. Mostly, this worked fine, but they got a little noisy at one point and I was doing my big quarterly accounting... and ugh, my head hurts now. 

The heat is supposed to break over the weekend and that will be nice. Now, on to the links.

First, the self-promotion (and sorta self-promotion):

I'm running a sale on Academaze, Xykademiqz' collection of essays and cartoons about life in academia. The ebook will be $2.99 through next Saturday. The sale price has already gone into effect at Amazon, and GumRoad, and will go into effect at iBooks and Kobo tomorrow. This is a pretty big discount: the usual price is $8.99. 

Reviewers say things like "an absolute must-read for anyone who is either thinking of a career in research or has already embarked on the path" and "Reading Academaze was like having a long chat with a colleague who’d had experiences similar to mine, but actually processed them instead of simply surviving." I am not even in academia and I found things that were inspiring to me (the essay "Ride It Like You Stole It" is one example). I don't run many sales on this title, so grab your discounted copy now!

I have something for people interested in careers outside of academia, too! I finally decided to go ahead and offer an online version of my most popular in person seminar, which is about preparing for and running a non-academic job search. You can sign up for the early bird price of $25 through Wednesday

And that's all the self-promotion. On to the other links!

This first person story about Joe Arpaio's "tent city" jail makes me ashamed. This should not happen. I was glad when he was finally held responsible for a small fraction of the wrong things he'd done. I am furious that he was pardoned.

The pardon of Arpaio makes me glad to see Mueller working with the NY state attorney general

It was also an example of Trump playing to white racial grievances. German Lopez wrote a good explanation of how white identity politics often gets camouflaged as something else, so that even the people motivated by it don't necessarily realize that this is what is motivating them. There are some people who argued with me on Twitter after the election who I wish would read that link. 

If you, like me, have been watching the news out of Texas more than the Russia investigation, here's a nice overview of what happened in the investigation this week.

I liked Henry Grabar's article about bollards. I'd like to see more use of bollards to reclaim space from cars!

Josh Marshall's post about running a business that depends on Google is really good. If you want to think about how the big tech platforms are amassing and using monopoly power, don't miss that post. I have been thinking a lot about how much power Amazon has over my publishing business. I don't have the sophisticated level of thoughts about this that Marshall has about Google, but maybe some day I will. In the meantime, I'm thinking hard about how to insulate my business a bit more from Amazon's clout.

David Roberts wrote a good summary of what we can say about Harvey and climate change. I particularly liked his section about the difference between adapting to climate change and mitigating it.

The Weeds podcast episode about inequality was really interesting and I learned a lot from it.

This tweet made my jaw literally drop open:

As did this one (click through to see the jaw dropper):

I don't know what to do about such aggressive ignorance.

I love this art:

Snuggly bunnies!

That's all for this week. It is almost time for me to go collect Petunia from after care and start our long weekend. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trip Story: Moab to Salt Lake City

The drive from Moab to Salt Lake City is a long one. Google Maps told me it would take almost four hours. Therefore, we tried to break it up. Unfortunately, the first part of the drive is through incredibly empty country. It is also very sparse scenery. I have a higher appreciation than most for desert landscapes, and even I tired of the Book Cliffs before we left them. I found parts of the drive between Moab and our first stop in Price pretty, but there was just too much of it!

But we made it through, and pulled in to the Subway we'd picked out for lunch right at lunch time... and right behind an entire Little League team. Luckily, we weren't in a hurry.

After lunch, we drove to the nearby Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum. This is a small but extremely well done museum. I had picked it as a stop location because of its dinosaur bones: the large Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is nearby. In addition to dinosaur bones, the museum had a good exhibit about the early human inhabitants of the area.

I thought this exhibit was really good.

The grown ups really liked the exhibits, but for the kids the draw was the children's area near the dino bones. There was a pretend dig site and Petunia in particular didn't want to do much else at the museum but play in that.

Dino bones that were essentially ignored by my supposedly dino loving daughter.

At first I was a little annoyed that Petunia refused to spend much time looking at the bones—or talking to the real dinosaur scientists who were setting up a new exhibit and happy to talk to passing children!—but I eventually gave up caring. Petunia had been really excited about this stop. She wore her dino t-shirt and the crop pants I'd patched with a piece of fabric with a dino print. And what she found most compelling when she got to the museum was the fake dig. Who was I to argue?

Since Petunia insisted on playing in the kids area for so long, I ended up chatting with another mother there with her kid. They were locals, and before long, her husband dropped by, too. He told us about how the miners in the area would find fossilized dinosaur footprints in the coal seams. He said there is a house in a nearby town (I think he said it was in Helper) that has a large T. rex footprint fossil in its wall! I was tempted to take a little detour to go try to see that, but we decided to just stick with our original plan instead.

After we left Price, the scenery got greener and more variable. Sadly, since it was after lunch, Mr. Snarky slept through much of it. But it made for a nice drive for me!

Our next stop was in Provo, the home of Brigham Young University. I had found several shops that were potential places for us to get a mid-afternoon treat. We settled on a Bahama Buck's snowcone shop, which was near a park. The kids loved their snowcones, although we didn't go in for any of the fancy options available. And then we all enjoyed stretching our legs at the park.

From Provo, we drove on to Salt Lake City and checked into our hotel, which was a Doubletree on the outskirts of downtown. We walked to the Squatters Brew Pub for dinner that night and turned in early.

The next day, we got up and headed towards Temple Square. We stopped at a coffee shop for breakfast, but that didn't work so well. Neither kid was all that happy with the pastry options and it was a good thing I had snacks in my bag give them instead. (We learned our lesson: all other breakfasts in SLC were at Starbucks, known to have food options my children will eat.)

Another problem with the breakfast stop was it lacked a bathroom... and Petunia decided she needed one. So we headed to the Salt Palace, SLC's convention center. It had a gift shop and bathrooms. And an art installation outside that Pumpkin enjoyed:

She played the NZ national anthem. 

After our pit stop, we headed over to Temple Square. Mr. Snarky was determined that we would do a guided tour of Temple Square, despite my warning that it would just be used as a chance to proselytize to us. However, he didn't think the kids could stand the length of time of the regular tour (I think it was an hour long), so he asked for and got us a special tour. So we had two very enthusiastic missionaries all to ourselves!

The Temple

They were very nice and we were very polite and everyone got through the tour without embarrassment, although the kids did seem puzzled as to why we were insisting they sit through this. I figure it was a good actual example of my frequent admonition to them that we respect everyone's religion, even if we don't believe what they believe.

Still, we were all glad to head across the street to the City Creek Mall to get lunch. We had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant, and then headed out again, this time to see the State Capitol.

Nice building.

It is a fine capitol, as capitols go, but I don't share Mr. Snarky's enthusiasm for them.

We had a nice walk back towards town, along the creek that shows up in the City Creek Mall. I posted a bit about the signs we saw on our walk earlier. The walk was a little hot and long for the kids, though, so we stopped and got ice cream when I saw a fancy ice cream truck. That was definitely just for the kids. Yep.

After a short rest at our hotel, we headed out again. Mr. Snarky saw a park on the map that we could stop at on our way to the Planetarium, which we planned to see before dinner. But the park was really full of homeless people, to the point that they were sleeping on the play structures, so we skipped that and substituted the Children's Museum for the Planetarium to make up for the lost play time and stop Petunia from whining about it.

The Children's Museum is in the Gateway Mall, which had these swing tables that our kids thought were awesome. We thought they looked impractical.

The kids had fun at the museum, and we had dinner at the CPK in the Gateway mall before catching the TRAX train back to our hotel.

The next day, we started with my pick for "most important thing to do in SLC": The Tracy Aviary. It was smaller than I expected but still quite good. We started by watching the show, which was fun and well done. Then we wandered around and saw a bunch of birds. We were surprised to find some keas, which looked unimpressed by the heat, but came out when prompted to show off their ability to turn knobs to get you to drop quarters in their donation bin.

Clever Kea

After the aviary, we meant to play at the playground in Liberty Park, but the playground wasn't shady enough and the equipment was too hot. So we headed on to the Sugar House district for lunch at the Wasquatch brew pub.

Then we drove on to This Is the Place, a heritage park that the kids quite enjoyed, but from which I don't really have any good pictures. Mr. Snarky quite liked it, too. I perhaps burned out on settler historical sites as a child, because my favorite part of the place was the little doughnuts we bought. (OK, all joking aside, I found it a little too "rah rah hardy settlers" without really confronting what happened to the Native Americans who were living on the land before the settlers arrived. But... I will also admit that I didn't give it a fair chance. They had a Native American section set up with members of a local tribe there to demonstrate weaving and other Native crafts and talk about how the tribes lived at the time the settlers arrived. Perhaps in that section there was an honest reckoning. I did not go check it out because the kids rightly pointed out that what we'd visited in Monument Valley was better. But even so, that was one small part of the park, and the rest of the park was devoted to demonstrating just how awesome and hardy those Mormon settlers were. And fair enough, they were hardy. So were the Native Americans who'd been living in that area for centuries.)

Moving on... after we left the heritage park, we drove back to the hotel and decided to try again to see the Planetarium. The kids lobbied for and got Subway for dinner (our kids think the weirdest things are treats). First, we accidentally visited the SLC Library, which I'd read was impressive. We took the wrong train and got off at the library stop to go back to catch the correct train. We decided to make the most of our mistake and wandered over to see the library. We arrived too late to go inside, but I agree, the building is impressive.

Nice library.

So was the Planetarium. Honestly, it might have been my favorite stop in SLC (although the aviary was pretty good, too). The kids had a lot of fun with the exhibits, which I thought were really well done. I was particularly impressed with the Mars Rover exhibit. They had four rovers that you could move around... but only by sending programmed instructions. The programming was simple (you click on arrows), but it did a really good job of demonstrating what "driving a rover" on a distant planet is like: asynchronous.

Petunia drives a rover.

There was also a planetary weather station exhibit where the kids got to read weather reports from various planets. The kids loved that.

After we finished up at the Planetarium, we took the TRAX back to our hotel. We'd had a great visit to Salt Lake City. Next time, we leave town and see a lot of salt. At the rate I'm going, I'll probably post on that in October. (Just kidding. I'll try to pick up the pace!)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Weekend Reading: That Week Went Fast Edition

My kids start school on Monday, and this last week of their summer break went by really fast. I honestly thought I'd post another trip story sometime this week... but it didn't happen. There is always next week.

In book promo news:
In other self-promo news:

I finally decided to offer an online version of my non-academic job search seminar. I've given various versions of this seminar at several places, and had been debating whether or not to do an online version. I finally got off the fence about that. The live session will  be Sept. 20. Enrollment is open until Sept. 18, but the price goes up five dollars on Sept. 6. I've intentionally priced this seminar below my usual price to hopefully keep it accessible to anyone who is interested: it is $25 until Sept 6, and $30 after that. If you can't afford the price, though, email me and we'll work something out.

OK, enough promotional links. On to the other stuff! I don't have much this week, because other things have kept me busy. But here's what I have:

California has done a great job showing that we can transition to green energy without hurting on our economy, but the next climate challenge we face is even bigger: how to decrease emissions from cars. If you are interested in how we can fight climate change, take a look at this article. What we need to do next is daunting, but if we can do it, I think we'll end up with cities that are more enjoyable to live in (even ignoring the climate impact).

David Perry puts the exclusion of women from coding jobs into historical context, using medieval beer brewing as an example.

This is from a couple weeks ago, but I forgot to post it, and it is still worth reading: Jamelle Bouie is right that white Americans need to make a choice

This is a masterful use of Twitter by Rep. Don Beyer (click through for the full thread):

The lecture anthropologist Katie Hinde gave on the first day of class this year is a wonderfully told story about what her field can offer.

Look at this beautiful bird:

And this cute bunny!

Right now, I'm watching Hurricane Harvey bear down on Texas, and hoping everyone in its path stays safe and that FEMA has its act together even if I have little confidence in the White House to provide any meaningful leadership right now. I'm thinking about you folks in Texas and neighboring states. Get to higher ground if you need to.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Bad Week Edition

Wow, am I glad it is Friday. This post is late because of all the reasons that make me glad it is Friday, but primarily because I had to pick one kid up from camp, get her to a friend's house for a sleepover, and then be available to receive the other kid coming home from a day spent with a friend.

We pick Mr. Snarky up at the airport on Sunday, and I am looking forward to only driving to half of the things next week.  (Fun twist: we pick him up at LAX, not the San Diego airport, so I get one last burst of driving to round out the week! My conclusions from the week of being one with my car are that I need a larger playlist on my ipod and that I should buy a steering wheel cover because the steering wheel on the 10 year old Prius sort of flakes off on your hands after you've been driving for an hour.)

Anyhow, let's get to the links.

First some sort of self promotion: Water into Wine, a sci-fi novella by Joyce Chng and the next Annorlunda Books release will be out next month, and available for pre-order in a couple of weeks. I'm looking for advance readers. If you are interested, sign up on this form.

Also, next week I'm running a sale on The Lilies of Dawn, a fantasy novelette by Vanessa Fogg. The ebook will be just $0.99. The price is dropping on the ebook retailer sites this weekend. Click through to the book's home page to read more about the book and find direct links to your favorite ebook stores.

And now some friend promotion: A friend of ours has an awesome weather app for Android called Flowx. It lets you swipe through the day and see the cloud cover (or other weather stat) change on the map. Check it out!

On to the less awesome stuff. Warning, a lot of the link this week are really tough to read. It was a bad week.

Roxane Gay on the hate that doesn't hide, and regrets for not doing more to prevent this election outcome.

Charles M. Blow on the Republican complicity in the current situation, and how far back that complicity stretches. If you don't know what the Southern Strategy was, and have never read Nixon's own aides admissions about it, please read this piece.

Alexandra Petri on Trump's despicable words.

A Mother Jones reporter visits her small Southern home town and interviews the people of color who live there.

The president of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, on what that Saturday was like for him and his congregation.

Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother, gave a hell of a eulogy for a her daughter:

I marvel at her strength and am heartbroken that it is necessary.

Lest we think that this is only a Southern problem... San Diego removed a marker for the Jefferson Davis Highway from our downtown this week. And there's a debate underway in Denver about a neighborhood named for a former mayor who was also a member of the KKK. (h/t Bad Mom Good Mom for that last link.)

Dave Pell on how the character being tested now is not Trump's, it is ours.

David Frum on how we've let the 2nd amendment cancel the 1st amendment.

Read Noah Smith's list of things he'd do to improve our economy and think about an alternate outcome in which we are discussing ideas like these instead of how to defeat the emboldened Nazis marching in our streets.

Here's a nice politics story: the friendship between Norman Mineta and Alan Simpson.

This made me laugh. Click through to read the entire thread:

Mat Pearce asked people to share their favorite public statues and there are some great answers:

Here's an old post with one of my favorites.

Bunny in a hat!

That's all I have this week. I'm sure I missed some things I meant to share, but it is still a lot of grim reading. Sorry about that. I hope for a better week next week, but given who is in the White House and the number of White Supremacist rallies I've seen planned around the country... I think that may be an impossible hope.

But I want to end on something happy, so here is the song that has been stuck in my head all week because my kids like it and ask for it when we're driving around:

The fact that last week Mr. Snarky and I finally got around to watching the (excellent) documentary about the song probably has something to do with it being embedded in my brain, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Long Week

I am solo parenting this week. My husband is visiting his family in New Zealand for his father's birthday. Since our schedule is built assuming two adults shuttling children around, I knew this was going to be a tough week, and told my main client I'd be working fewer hours. Even so, this week has kicked my butt.

I can't deconvolute how much of the exhaustion I feel is from the increased parenting load and how much is from the general dumpster fire of American life right now. Honestly, I'm hoping it is mostly the former, since that at least has a defined end date.

I haven't been writing about the dumpster fire lately because I don't find that I have anything new or insightful to say. I agree with Josh Marshall on this: I watched Republicans build a bomb and present it to the American electorate, who lit the fuse. And now it has exploded, and well, what can I saw except "I told you so?" On my better days, I can say "I really wish you hadn't done that, but since you did, how about you help clean up the mess?" But not all days are my better days.

Here are some things I'm thinking that maybe I haven't said before:

(1) I think it is highly likely that Trump will destroy the Republican party as it currently exists. In fact, he may already have done so and we're just watching it stagger through a zombie phase. I don't know. The questions that remain open are whether he will destroy the credibility of the conservative movement in America, and whether he will indeed destroy America as we know it. I confess that I don't really care about the former, except in as much as I have friends who would not feel they had a political voice without a viable conservative party and as a general principle, I think it is better for people to feel that they have a political voice. I care a lot about that latter, though, and am completely serious that I think it is very much an open question right now. I see reasons for hope, and maybe sometime I should do a post with links to the things that give me hope. But then I see the polls and think it is a toss up.

(2)  Speaking of the polls, I saw one this week (and sorry, I'm too tired to go find it and link to it) that indicated that there is a core of Trump supporters who will be with him no matter what he does, and estimated that was about 25% of the country. That's more than I'd like, but easily defeatable... if the other 75% gets its act together and tries. I think the 2018 elections will be our first real read out on whether the 75% can get its act together. Will the Republicans horrified by Trump find it in themselves to vote for a Democrat for Congress so that we can impeach the man? Will the Democrats stop arguing over whether we should have "single payer" or "a public option" and all turn out to vote no matter what? I don't know. I've said before that the 2018 elections are the most important in my life. And I don't really know how to best help the 75% get its act together. I've been thinking about that a lot.

(3) Nazis and the KKK are bad. To be fair, I hadn't said that before because it seemed obvious, but the events of this week have demonstrated that maybe we all need to say it out loud every now and then.

There's much, much more to talk about with regards to the types of white supremacy that are less obvious than highly armed Nazis marching in the streets, but that will have to wait for another night. It is late, and I have to get up early tomorrow and shuttle the kids to where they need to be so that I can try to get some work done. For tonight, I'll just say that there is a slim chance that the end result of this dumpster fire is actually something better: An America that has faced up to the sins of its founding and its past, and started to talk about how to make amends and how to build a truly inclusive multi-racial society. I hold onto that slim chance as a reason not to just look away from the dumpster fire. The optimist in me says that maybe if enough of us refuse to look away, we can make some progress, and the best part of me says that whether it will work or not, we at least need to try. So I will try.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Staying Calm Edition

I don't even know what to say to preface my links anymore. I am struggling to find the right amount of engagement with the news so that I can know enough about what's going on to make decisions if I need to, but not so much that I just want to scream in rage every day.

I know that people are expending a lot of energy explaining Trump voters to people like me. I wonder if anyone is expending any energy explaining people like me to Trump voters. Has anyone tried to write something to explain why we are so angry with this situation? I haven't seen it, but I confess I haven't gone looking for it, for the reason stated above: I can't spend too much time engaged with the news or I waste too much energy on rage.

So anyhow, listening to the "Emergency North Korea update" portion of the latest episode of Pod Save the World made me feel less at risk here in San Diego. I am so angry for the people of Guam, but I guess they are unfortunately used to hostile message from North Korea. What is new is the feeling that our President is making things worse.

The fact that the South Koreans and Japanese aren't freaking out makes me think that someone in our government (not our President) is successfully communicating in a way that is helpful. The lack of clarity about what our policy actually is can't be helpful, though. I assume that at some point the rest of the world will adjust to the fact that the United States essentially has no fixed foreign policy and start stepping up and trying to solve problems without us. Long term, maybe that gets us to a more stable world than the pre-Trump situation. I don't know. But the transition to a new world order is sure scary.

Anyway, I feel better when I feel like I've done what I can to mitigate risks, so I've read the advice to get as many walls between you and the outside as possible in the event of an attack, and I've read about how if you're caught outside you should shower right away but not use conditioner.  And I read the CDC's info about potassium iodide and decide that it is cheap and Amazon has one of the FDA approved sources, so why not add it to our emergency kit? I'm old enough that I probably don't need it, but my kids aren't.

Yes, this mess has officially turned me into a prepper. Another thing I can't think about too long lest I descend into a blind rage.

So anyway. On to other things.

This Vox article about how the really rich are hoarding economic growth is upsetting. But I guess it explains why super rich people like the Mercers and the Kochs and Steve Wynn are willing to spend so much money to make sure things to change.

I could link to all sorts of things about that Google jerk, but I assume you've probably read all about it.  Here's some related things you might not have seen:

I like Joan Williams and Marina Multhaup's analysis of why engineering has such a problem with diversity.

Here is Sara Wattcher-Boettcher with some good thoughts on why this matters even if you don't work in tech.

And Zeynep Tfecki has a good thread on the topic that starts here:

This is a nice post about representation from the mother of a child who uses assistance communicating.

OMG, this sculpture. I want to see it next time I go to New Zealand.

Here's some cute bunnies.

And a rabbit joke!

I can't think of a better way to end. Happy weekend, everyone.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Trip Story: Arches and Moab

In the last installment of my posts about our 2017 road trip, we were in Monument Valley. We drove from Monument Valley to Moab, and stayed a couple nights there. The main attraction of Moab was Arches National Park. I had been to this park before, but Mr. Snarky hadn't, and neither had the kids. Now, late June is not the best time to see Arches. It is hot there in June, usually in the high 90s. And there really is very little shade in Arches. So I didn't plan for any big hikes.

As it happened, it was even hotter than average during our visit, with a high temperature just over 100. We did attempt one short hike, out to see Landscape Arch. The kids got to a patch of shade along the trail, not far from where Landscape Arch comes into view and basically refused to go any further. Since I'd seen Landscape Arch before, I stayed with them while Mr. Snarky went ahead to see the view.

Suffice to say, the kids were not all that impressed with Arches. But Pumpkin was glad to find a lot of license plates for her license plate games- including Alabama, which had so far stymied her attempts to play an alternate version of the game where you have to find the plates in alphabetical order (she is currently looking for Florida). Petunia thought that Balancing Rock was pretty cool:

Both kids enjoyed scrambling around at The Organ, in the shade provide by Courthouse Towers:

Mr. Snarky was so impressed with the scenery that he didn't complain about the heat. Perhaps I should print out photos so he won't whine when the temperature in our house gets to 80?

Perhaps because I'd seen Arches before, my favorite part of the time in Moab was the other stuff.

We stayed in a hotel called River Canyon Lodge. It had a nice pool, which we all enjoyed. We had dinner the second night at a place called Zax, which had a great upstairs patio. We enjoyed watching the colors change on the nearby rocks as the sunset while we ate.

And the final thing we did before leaving town was drive out along Kane Creek Blvd in search of some rock art.

Our inspiration for this was a blog post that I found while sitting on that upstairs deck at Zax. I should have read that post more carefully, because it clearly states that the first rock art panels are on the RIGHT side of the parking area at the Moonflower Canyon campground. We looked on the LEFT side and then set off on a pointless hike up past the campground, on which I gathered approximately eight mosquito bites. OOPS.

Not visible: Lots and lots of mosquitos.

But we found the Moonflower panels, and then continued on to the main draw: the rock with the rare "birthing panel." The drive was nice, although part of it was on a dirt road. The river and canyon are quite beautiful.

And we made it to the rock with the birthing panel, and yeah, it is awesome.

After seeing this, we drove out of town and headed towards Salt Lake City. I'll pick the story up another day.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Weekend Reading: The I Assume You Can Find the Political News on Your Own Edition

Hey, it is Friday again! This week went by fast. This entire summer is going by fast. I've only been to the beach once! Luckily, September is also really nice weather for the beach.

Anyhow, let's have some links. Mostly not about the big political news of the week, because you can probably find that stuff on your own, right?

Ta-Nehisi Coates' piece about the planned HBO show Confederate raises a lot of good points. I personally found the part comparing the aftermath of the Civil War and the aftermath of WWII in Germany very compelling.

Vox continues to have really stellar healthcare coverage. This article about the ACA in California made me feel a little bit better about my chances should I need to buy insurance on the market, even if Trump succeeds in undermining the law.

I think most Americans are too focused on our internal political nightmare to have noticed this, but it strikes me as potentially quite significant: The Vatican has allowed an article quite critical of conservative US Catholics to be published in one of its approved journals.

Blue Milk posted an excerpt of an interview with Zadie Smith that I quite liked. In a better world, I'd go read the whole interview... but have not made the time to do so yet.

This is a really thought-provoking essay about what being rich does to people.

I laughed because this is probably true:

I'd sign up for a Bun Alert service!

Bun alert!

Happy weekend, everyone!


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